And it can't come fast enough.
Think the new Jeep Gladiator is capable of overcoming any obstacle? Think again. We’re referring to physical obstacles only, not ones regarding product portfolio. According to Automotive News, Fiat Chrysler’s other off-road brand, Ram, is racing to fill a product hole the Gladiator can’t properly accommodate: the more traditional mid-size pickup truck.
FCA CEO Mike Manley made it clear Ram is "focused on solving a metric ton midsize truck solution.” The Gladiator, meanwhile, is somewhat more niche and its appeal is slightly different but different enough to justify the need for a Ford Ranger and Toyota Tacoma fighter.
"I want that problem solved, frankly, because it's a clear hole in our portfolio. It will not be filled by Gladiator because Gladiator is a very, very different mission. Trust me, they're focused on it. We need to get it fixed soon,” Manley stated. Last year, we learned that Ram is indeed planning a new mid-size pickup and it will be built alongside the Gladiator in Toledo, Ohio.
That means the reborn Dakota, assuming even this is the chosen nameplate, will share the Wrangler/Gladiator body-on-frame chassis. No complaints there. But it also sounds like Ram is having some difficulties making it happen. "Being able to find a cost-effective platform in a region where we can build it with low cost and it still being applicable in the market is what they're struggling with at the moment,” Manley added.
Really? What’s the struggle? The platform is done. The Wrangler Unlimited and Gladiator prove it can be stretched as needed (and given a bed), and there’s a massive manufacturing facility in place. It sure sounds like all of the bones are there. However, the problem could be regarding the overall packaging and distinction.
Like the Gladiator, the Ram 1500 clearly has its own personality which has become a huge selling point. Therefore, Ram could be struggling to lock down what this "reborn Dakota” is all about. What will it offer its Ranger and Chevy Colorado competitors don’t already? Above all, what’ll make it unique? The last time Ram built a mid-size truck was in 2011, the final year of the Dakota’s 25-year production run. Perhaps Ram is a bit out of practice in this department.